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Examples of Break Them by Talking on live-action TV.


  • During Day 3 of 24, Sherry Palmer trash-talks her ex-husband's biggest donor, Alan Milliken, so badly that he dies of a heart attack on the spot.
  • Parodied in 30 Rock. During a poker game, Alec Baldwin's powerful network executive character attempts to intimidate naïve NBC page Kenneth with a lengthy speech similar to the one from Silence of the Lambs. When Kenneth eventually loses the game, Baldwin explains that it was only a test, and, as the once-again chipper Kenneth exits on his bike, Baldwin utters the classic line, "In five years we'll all either be working for him... or be dead by his hand." Five seasons later, the former NBC page is in charge of the network. He was right.
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  • Andi Mack: When Kira notices something going on between Cyrus and TJ, she manages to get in TJ's head by taking a dig at the fact that he'd rather do a duo costume with Cyrus, a boy, instead of her, a girl, telling him to "have fun with that."
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt does this to a screaming and resisting Jesse after Walt allows Jack to take Jesse away, by revealing to him that he was complicit in Jane's death back in Season 2.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A part of The First Evil's modus operandi—to torment his victims until they do its bidding, go mad or kill themselves. This bites it in the ass when it accidentally gives Buffy the idea to bestow the Slayer power to the Potentials.
  • Chuck: there have been two examples. In the third season The Ring Director does this to Dragon Daniel Shaw and in the fourth season Alexei Volkoff's lawyer does it to Vivian, Volkoff's daughter.
  • Community:
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    • In the episode "Football, Feminism and You" Jeff delivers a really nasty lecture to Annie after she discovers his role in persuading Troy to rejoin the football team.
    • Jeff delivers an even worse one to Alan in the season five premiere - only to decide that Alan isn't even worth a speech and just smacks him with his own necktie.
    • Season 3 has two: one in the first episode given by Vice-Dean Laybourne to Dean Pelton, and one in the finale given by Evil-Abed to Britta.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's biggest gift is his gab, especially in his seventh incarnation. Notable examples include talking a Dalek into committing suicide in "Remembrance of the Daleks", and even talking down a trigger-happy police sniper in "The Happiness Patrol".
    • "Boom Town": The Doctor gives one to Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, pointing out that the only reason she spared a woman's life earlier is so that she can live with herself when she does things that are far worse.
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    • "The Parting of the Ways": The Dalek Emperor is terrifyingly good at this, constantly taunting the Doctor about the Morton's Fork he has to take. The Emperor figures that if he can break the Doctor's spirit, he won't use the weapon he's jury-rigged to destroy the Daleks.
    • Baines/Son of Mine unleashes one of his own upon the headmaster in "The Family of Blood":
      Rocastle: Well, I warn you, the school is armed.
      Baines/Son of Mine: All your little tin soldiers... but tell me sir; will they thank you?
      Rocastle: I don't understand.
      Baines/Son of Mine: What do you know of history, sir? What do you know of next year?
      Rocastle: You're not making sense, Baines.
      Baines/Son of Mine: 1914, sir. Because the Family has traveled far and wide looking for Mr. Smith and, oh, the things we have seen. War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?
    • "Last of the Time Lords": The Master is about to blow up the planet Earth (which both he and the Doctor are currently standing on) with "black hole converters" built into every ship of his conquering fleet to spite the Doctor, who has just thwarted him. Rather than trying to appeal to his better nature or beg him not to, the Doctor's response is merely to dismissively point out that he knows him; the Master is unable to do such a thing because to do so would be to kill himself, which the Master simply cannot do. As such, the Doctor calmly points out, the Master has no choice but to surrender his weapon — which he does.
    • It also happens to the Doctor a lot. The Beast, Davros, the Carrionites. Given the Doctor is a walking open wound since the Time War, it's a lot easier to get under his skin.
      • Special mention should be made to "Amy's Choice", where he receives several from himself in the form of the Dream Lord.
        The Doctor: Where did you pick up this cheap cabaret act?
        Dream Lord: Me? Oh, you're on shaky ground.
        The Doctor: Am I?
        Dream Lord: If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open a tawdry quirk shop! The madcap vehicle, the cockamamie hair, the clothes designed by a first-year fashion student... I'm surprised you haven't got a little purple space dog, just to ram home what an intergalactic wag you are!
      • Later he delves even deeper into the Doctor's mind and deconstructs the Doctor's loneliness and pain to reveal it for what it truly is:
        The Doctor: I have to save my friends!
        Dream Lord: Friends? Is that what you call the people you acquire? Your friends never see you again once they've grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?
      • The Dream Lord does this to Amy to shake her faith in the Doctor:
        Dream Lord: And he always leaves you, doesn't he? Alone in the dark, never apologises...
        Amy: He doesn't have to.
        Dream Lord: Well that's good... because he never will.
    • Missy gives him one in "Death in Heaven", when the true purpose of her Evil Plan is revealed.
      The Doctor: All of this... All of it, just to give me an army?
      Missy: Well, I don't need one, do I? Armies are for people who think they're right. And nobody thinks they're righter than you! Give a good man firepower, and he'll never run out of people to kill. Go ahead, Mister President! Don't you trust yourself?
  • ER:
    • Pratt gave one of these to two teenagers who unintentionally shot a six-year-old girl when trying to get someone else. He specifically had them brought to the emergency room where they could actually see the little girl, lying unconscious on the table, covered in blood, and he brutally mentioned all the organs in her body that were damaged because of what they did.
    • Another episode had Kerry Weaver firing an incompetent resident. When she publicly humiliates him by listing his many screw-ups, he counteracts with the fact that the entire ER staff despises her and that the only reason she's so dedicated to her job is because it's the only thing she has in her life.
  • Game of Thrones: After forty years of emotional torment from her father, Cersei finally gets her own back by revealing the truth of her and Jaime's relationship, leaving him stammering that it can't be true.
    Cersei: Your legacy is a LIE!
  • At times, Frank Pembleton from Homicide: Life on the Street edges from Perp Sweating to this. In one episode, he talked someone into confessing proudly to a crime they BOTH knew he didn't do, just to keep an investigation open.
  • In a dazzling display of self-loathing, House (well, technically it's the guy who shot him, but it's all a hallucination, so...) does this to himself:
    Moriarty: You think that the only truth that matters is the truth that can be measured. Good intentions don't count, what's in your heart doesn't count, caring doesn't count, that a man's life can't be measured by how many tears are shed when he dies. It's because you can't measure them. It's because you don't want to measure them. Doesn't mean it's not real.
    House: This doesn't make any sense.
    Moriarty: And even if I'm wrong, you're still miserable. Did you really think that your life's purpose was to sacrifice yourself and get nothing in return? No. (As he speaks, we see House in a car with Moriarty's wife, who supposedly killed herself because House told her about her husband's cheating. The car is in a smoke-filled garage.) You believe there is no purpose to anything. Even the lives you save, you dismiss. You take the one decent thing in your life, and you taint it, strip it of all meaning. You're miserable for nothing. I don't know why you'd want to live. [in the car, House closes his eyes, proving Moriarty right; then we return to the hospital]
    House: [quietly and genuinely upset] I'm sorry.
  • Happens a lot on House of Anubis. The sinners used it most often to provoke their victims into sinning, or in most cases, to just be cruel.
  • Justified: Donovan storms into Duffy's trailer and threatens to kill Quarles for murdering his friend Brady. Quarles talks down Donovan by telling him about how his father forced him into prostitution as a young man, and how Theo Tonin adopted him. Donovan lowers his gun, and a tearful Quarles embraces him as he starts crying. Unfortunately, we see Donovan bound and gagged in Quarles' bathroom at the end of the episode, suggesting that Quarles plans to torture and kill him just as he did Brady.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: many episodes — particularly those with Goren in the lead detective role — frequently build up to a final interrogation wherein the detectives do it to the perp, playing psychological mind games or confronting them with how inadequate or pathetic they are in order to get them to crack.
  • In The League of Gentlemen episode "Nightmare in Royston Vasey", Ross seizes the opportunity to berate Pauline for her incompetence as a restart officer during a mock interview where Ross is the interviewer.
  • Sara Lance gives Damian Darhk an epic Breaking Speech in the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Compromised", telling him of his future and how all of his grand plans are doomed to failure. Unfortunately, it simply drives him to team up with time travelling supervillain Reverse-Flash to Screw Destiny.
  • In Leverage, "The Experimental Job", a Breaking Speech by an interrogator is turned around into a Hannibal Lecture. A career CIA interrogator tries to break Eliot by getting him to talk about how many people Eliot has killed. Eliot convinces the CIA man that he's killed far more, and remembers far more details, and that it already haunts him far more, than the CIA man could possibly have imagined or could possibly invoke. The CIA man is so shaken that he ends the day's session right then and there.
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • Malcolm's mother comes with him to an interview for a university, much to the chagrin of the titular character (considering he is the only one there with a mother). She ends up butting heads with the RA, a massive jerkass. In response to his locking of the vending machine, she escalates the situation in an attempt to get him fired (as opposed to what her son wanted to do, which was go to another floor where the vending machines wouldn't be locked). However, when she confronts him, he nonchalantly points out that this job means nothing to him and there are a hundred other places he could do what he does. Then he quite savagely points out how Lois is a control freak, how she's a failure at life, and how pathetically she's trying to live vicariously through Malcolm, and suggests that if she isn't sure about what he's saying, she should talk to the other parents that insisted on staying with their kids in the dorm rooms.
    • In one episode, after an argument between the boys dissolves into personal insults, Malcolm points out that Reese doesn't have any friends. Reese instantly becomes sad, only replying "Mom told you you're never allowed to talk about that."
  • MightyMorphinPowerRangers: In Green No More Part II, after Tommy Oliver has become trapped in the Otherworld where he loses all the remains of his Green Ranger Powers, Goldar goads Tommy about the loss of his powers and all the heroic acts Tommy and his Dragonzord did but can no longer do. To add further salt to poor Tommy's wounds Goldar also shows all of his Green Ranger glory days to Tommy in a magic slideshow. Fortunately despite visibly becoming distressed and being moved to tears, Tommy is such a badass that Goldar fails to get Tommy to surrender and Tommy even singlehandedly and without powers defeats Goldar and escapes.
  • NOS4A2: Manx does this when held at gunpoint by Lou, the biker who helps Vic. Given his abilities he knows not only Luke's name, but also his weak spots, and distracts him enough with this to get away.
  • Oz: Beecher and Schillinger do this to each other on separate occasions, mainly to provoke the other into some bad behavior to mess up their chances at parole, or to just torment each other. Keller also does this to Beecher a few times.
  • Given that it's a series about transwomen competing in drag balls, this trope is written into the DNA of Pose. However there is no more epic read than the one delivered by Miss Elektra Abundance to her two former daughters who abandoned her and started a rival house:
    Elektra Abundance: Didn't you hear the news? I'm walking with the House of Evangelista, to help them win a trophy or ten, but mostly to destroy you. Aphrodite, I've got no beef with you. You may go or stay if you don't mind the sight of blood.
    Aphrodite: I've got nowhere to be.
    Elektra Abundance: Good, then you can hear the disappointment in my voice as I count off the ways in which I have clearly failed as a mother. Look at the fruits of my labor: a foolhardy chunk who makes her living on the pole and a brainless wonder who thinks the way to get curves is to stick Charmin in her drawers or to inject cement into her derriere. House of Ferocity? You two are about as fierce as my morning corn flakes. You may have left my home but you can't leave me. I'm in your mind, that voice saying, "You're not good enough, little girl. You're not smart enough or tough enough or glamorous enough to make it in this world." And that little voice is going to eat away at you like termites until your whole pathetic house come crashing down. You think you're on the road to being legends but you couldn't make it from here to the door without me pointing the way. You're nothing but bags of rancid, rotting meat. Well, take a long last look at this filet mignon. I doubt we'll be conversing ever again unless I take a sudden interest in dying of boredom.
  • In Power Rangers S.P.D., a Monster of the Week uses this trick on The Lancer of the team by making the guy talk about his beloved Disappeared Dad, driving him to tears — providing him with the reflective surface needed to teleport out of his high-security prison cell.
  • A non-villainous example comes from Psych. Shawn has found the best way to convince people he's a psychic is to just keep talking crazy and being his Deadpan Snarker self. At the series' current point, anyone who's already met him just lets it go, since he's never solved a case incorrectly.
  • A Monster of the Week in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger named Zuboshimeshi has this as a superpower. He's able to search the minds of his victims and find the one word that is most hurtful to them, then turning the pain it causes them into an attack.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "The Jem'Hadar, Part II," Quark lectures Sisko about his dislike of the Ferengi, claiming that Sisko's Holier Than Thou attitude toward Ferengi greed and deceit is hypocritical, given the fact that humans had far more and worse atrocities in their history: slavery, genocide, conquest, etcetera, on a scale that the Ferengi had never rivaled. As Quark stated, "we're not only as good as you are, human — we're better." Quark's point brings Sisko up short thinking about it, at least briefly.
    • Oddly the Slavery and conquest are massive lies, female Ferengi are slaves, and economic conquest is their biggest trait, they happily leave to their own devices those who fail financially and the only reason why they never committed genocide is because there's no profit in it.
    • More oddly Sisko never thinks to mention that humanity in the 24th century isn't doing any of this.
    • "In the Pale Moonlight", Quark does this mixed with Your Approval Fills Me with Shame by thanking Sisko for proving to Quark that "Every Man Has His Price" which happens to be Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #98.
    • Sisko pulls a variant on this on Dukat in "Waltz". Instead of snapping Dukat's already tenuous grasp on sanity by chewing him out and telling him to his face he's a jerk, Sisko uses feigned agreement, leading questions and coaxing him to reveal his uglier feelings until the Cardassian begins yelling about how he should have wiped out the entire population of Bajor while he had the chance. Things go downhill quite swiftly at that point.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • In the season 2 episode Measure of a Man, Picard does this to Maddox, an overzealous cyberneticist who plans to have Data classified as Starfleet Property in order to dismantle him. Anybody with any understanding of his sentience would be horrified, but since Maddox does not believe Data is sentient, he has no qualms. Until Picard convinces him otherwise...
      Picard: A single Data, and forgive me, Commander, is a curiosity. A wonder, even. But thousands of Datas. Isn't that becoming... a race?? And won't we be judged by how we treat that race? Now tell me, Commander. What is Data?
      Maddox: [flustered] I... don't understand?
      Picard: What is he?!
      Maddox: A machine!
      Picard: Is he? Are you sure?!
      Maddox: Yes!!!
      Picard: You see, he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, so what if he meets the third?! Consciousness! In even the smallest degree! What is he then? I don't know! Do you?! [to Riker] Do you?? [to the Judge] Do you? Do you?! Well that's the question you have to answer.
    • Deanna gets one from Riker in The Loss, when she resigns from Starfleet due to the loss of her empathic abilities (which to a Betazoid is basically like losing a whole sense). While understanding her loss, people have been trying to convince her all episode of the value in her talents. It's Riker who makes her realise the insecurity that lies at the root of her resignation.
      Riker:You always had an advantage, a little bit of control of every situation. That must have been a very safe position to be in. To be honest, I'd always thought there was something a little too... aristocratic about your Betazoid heritage, as if your Human side wasn't quite good enough for you.
      Deanna: That isn't true.
      Riker: Isn't it?
  • Supernatural:
    • As he seems to have a neon sign on his forehead screaming "SELF-LOATHING WOOBIE WITH DADDY ISSUES", Dean tends to get this done to him a lot. The Crossroads Demon (twice), The Yellow-Eyed Demon (twice), Sam whenever he's under the influence... The list goes on.
    • The scene in 5.14 "My Bloody Valentine" when he corners Famine in a diner is one of the most painful examples on the show:
      Famine: Have you wondered why that is? How you can even walk in my presence?
      Dean: I like to think it's because of my strength of character.
      Famine: I disagree. Yes. I see. That's one deep, dark nothing you've got there, Dean. You can't fill it, can you? Not with food, nor drink; not even with sex. Oh, you can smirk and joke and lie to your brother, lie to yourself, but not to me. I can see inside you, Dean. I can see how broken you are, how defeated; you can't win and you know it, but you just keep trying, just keep going through the motions. You're not hungry, Dean, because, inside, you're already dead.
    • Another one of the best came from Lucifer in 5.19 "Hammer of the Gods" in a speech to Mercury:
      Lucifer: You know, I never understood you pagans, you're such petty little things. Always fighting, always happy to sell out your own kind. You...are worse than humans. You're worse than demons. And yet you claim to be gods. No wonder you forfeited this planet to us. And they call me prideful.
    • Gabriel got a good one off at Lucifer later that same episode. Right before being killed.
    • Done by several Leviathans in 7.06 "Slash Fiction". Bobby mostly shrugs off his double's taunts, but Sam gets hit hard by Leviathan!Dean's revelation.
    • Castiel gets one during the season 9 finale when Metatron gloats about killing Dean. It's probably the most hurtful, evil speech Cas has ever heard in his life.
  • In To Play the King, Prime Minister Francis Urquhart breaks down the King of England, forcing him to abdicate the throne.


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